There’s a certain defying element in the title of the latest adventure of the pipe-smoking, eccentric and shrewd sociopathic consulting detective. The Devil’s Daughter, who is touted so ominously, is no other than Sherlock’s adoptive daughter. The epithet, however, refers to her biological father Moriarty, the lifelong and now deceased arch villain of Sherlock. In this position, Sherlock is presented as some sort evil step-mother, more concerned about the mirror’s judgement about who’s the fairest in London, than about his own child. Particularly for being responsible of her father’s death, Sherlock is symbolised as somewhat evil. The juxtaposition between the symbolism inherent in his position and the trope of us being always the good guy leaves Sherlock with the challenge of pushing through and making a firm appearance as a father.
With this interesting premise, the game decides to spend most of the time ignoring it. In The Devil’s Daughter – the game – you will play as Sherlock resolving four different and unrelated cases. More than showing his relationship with his daughter or Moriarty’s legacy, the cases display a shady and fickle side of London, where unskilled locals drudge away in mines, factories and refineries, and the uppermost classes capitalise on their ignorance with sadistic, albeit grand, motives. The semi-open world slightly nudges the player towards exploration, making them believe that there is much to the world than there actually is. There is an alluring aura to the industrial capital of The Empire, which is recreated in detail and showing the polarising day-to-day of the gentry and the underclass, and of the worldly capital and local gossip.
The stories enacted through the smaller characters, sadly, do not cohere with the overarching story. Take Kate, Sherlock’s annoying daughter; she makes a series of sporadic appearances in between investigations, only to disguise her irrelevance in the story to the player. It is easy to read between the lines – she clumsily becomes the centre of the final bit of the story. Here’s where the game confirms that suspicion that you had in the back of your head all the way throughout: this game lacks any coherent direction. The ‘moral choices’ that you encounter in each case – because gamers love them, don’t they? – are brought up in the final episode in a culmination that makes a cumbersome attempt to thread all plots together. It fails disastrously, to say the least, breaking the illusion and artificially contriving the ending – plus, the sometimes uncanny animations don’t help much.
Overall, this is not the only aspect where The Devil’s Daughter feels like it loses its course. The individual cases that make up the whole game, while being able to stand on their own, play out in a series of mini-games, most of which are skippable and have little to no relevance to the plot. Many of these puzzles are too hard to read, or too finicky to build a whole game based on them. Some others do not challenge your intellect, but your skills with a controller. However, whereas each individual puzzle is an unpolished mess, their brevity makes them bearable. What’s more, the continuous change of pace and mechanics always keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will come next.
These short challenges are often repeated throughout the game, so they never feel like an afterthought, and the variety of the type of puzzles makes it overall fairly entertaining. Before you get bored, you’re already onto the next puzzle. It is a pity that they’re not connected with the story that much. What is linked to the story is the deduction process; an element already present in the previous title where you thread the different elements and create your own version of what transpired in the case you’re investigating. The truth is never revealed, though. This is something we’ve often seen in many games, like LA Noire, where The Devil’s Daughter gets a lot of inspiration from.
This is an interesting way of creating some moral conundrums for the player, albeit a bit artificial. There is a modest feeling of accomplishment once you’ve matched the dots and come up with a subjectively coherent story, but if you’re in the dark about how to proceed, you can always try linking events until you hit the nail. And often it is necessary, as the wording of some events or clues is not precise or conclusive enough, and do not narrow themselves down to just one logical conclusion. You may even find new logical conclusions if you match events willy-nilly.
All in all, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter does not live up to the refined and tasteful expectations of the astute detective, but it sets an addictive pace that can keep you entertained for quite a while. In a way, the bastardising of the elegance and canniness characteristic of Sherlock Holmes makes the player feel more like Watson – always trying to catch up with the detective, and given a challenge toned down for his own minor intellect. It’s like an upbeat adaptation for children of something complicated and multi-faceted, and full of mini-games.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
The Devil's Daughter is a collection of minigames sewn together with a very questionable story, but that manages to keep the player amused for the duration of the game. Particularly given the atmosphere crafted in every detail of London and the deduction mechanics, the game will often make you feel like Sherlock.